Controversy Over New Tobacco Bill: Military Dependents Can Purchase Tobacco at Age 19

Daniella Rivera, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Utah has passed a bill that raises the age for people to buy tobacco, from 19 to 21. Much controversy has been brought to the surface not necessarily on the higher age, but about the exception that was put in place. The bill states that the age has risen to 21, but if you are active in the military or a military dependent you are still able to purchase tobacco at the age of 19.

Before this bill was announced, the use of tobacco has been increasing in accessibility to teenagers who aren’t of legal age. More specifically, vaping has become a trending use of tobacco among teens. Many teens are given access to vapes because of their relations to friends who are a couple of years older than them, and therefore are legally able to buy the vape.

This purchase of tobacco includes the purchase of e-cigarettes.  The easy access for teenagers to acquire tobacco products is what keeps teenagers addicted to tobacco, and makes it harder to kick their smoking addiction when they are adults.  When high school students are able to get ahold of a vape, this can lead to unwanted encouragement for peers to smoke with them to ‘fit in’.

Many adults and even high school students support the idea to raise the purchase of tobacco to 21, but the proposal of allowing military dependents to purchase the tobacco when they are not of that legal age is what is causing an uproar on the new bill.

Military dependents are civilians who aren’t serving in the military themselves, but rather are being provided personal needs by someone who is or was in the military. A military dependent can include a child who isn’t of the age of 21, but has a parent who is active in the military, or a spouse of someone who is active in the military.  

The confusion among residents of Utah is why dependents are allowed to purchase tobacco at the age of 19, especially since they aren’t the ones active in the military.

The factuality in the bill that states that an active duty military member is allowed to purchase tobacco at the age of 19 isn’t what confuses the public, because it is assumed that someone who is of legal age to join the military without parental consent should be the judge whether they think they are responsible to smoke or not.  Many high school students will be able to graduate, and buy tobacco at the age of 19, because of their dependency on a parent who is in the military.

The easy access of tobacco to teenagers is what is in question, yet some students will still have this access, and therefore still have the negative, impactful encouragement on students who are still in highschool to try the tobacco they were legally able to purchase.

Another bill on tobacco is in the process of being passed that will raise taxes on tobacco purchases, in hopes to decrease how much tobacco is purchased by an individual.  So, though there is controversy over the new passed bill, many can agree that steps were taken in an attempt to decrease the amount of teenagers who have access to tobacco, more specifically vapes and e-cigarettes, and many more steps are coming as bills are being passed over the issue.